Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In 2014 nearly 50,000 Americans died from unintentional overdoses, and this figure is expected to be even higher in 2016.
Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease. Like diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular disease, addiction is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental and biological factors.
Addiction crosses all socioeconomic and cultural boundaries. It is preventable and treatable, but without treatment or engagement in recovery, addiction is progressive and can result in premature and sudden death.
Addiction is not a personal or moral failing. Internal and external stigma are major barriers to getting treatment, causing addiction to be an extremely isolating disease.
A person who has overdosed on opioids may be breathing very slowly or not breathing, have blue or purplish lips, or not respond if you try to rouse them. If a person shows signs of an overdose:
Give the person naloxone (Narcan®)
- Call 911 right away
Naloxone (Narcan®) is a medication that can immediately reverse opioid overdoses, preventing brain injury caused by lack of oxygen.
Naloxone (Narcan®) has few side effects and is itself not addictive. It does, however, produce acute withdrawal symptoms, and many people who are revived wake up agitated, sweaty, and nauseated.
Many states have ‘standing orders’ for naloxone (Narcan®) at pharmacies, allowing anyone to go in and ask for an overdose reversal kit. Pharmacists will teach you how and when to use the medication.
Friends and family have reversed more than 26,000 overdoses from 1996 to 2014. Good Samaritan Laws in all 50 states offer legal protection to people who give reasonable assistance to those who are, or who they believe to be, injured, ill, in peril, or otherwise incapacitated. You can attempt to reverse an overdose and call 911 without fear.
Together We Are Allies in the fight against the stigma of addiction. We Are Allies seeks to make Narcan universally visible and available. By carrying our response case or wearing our indicator pin we can:
- Save lives